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Big ferry arrives in Dover

P&O Ferries' new £151m ship Spirit of Britain - the largest ferry built for service on the Dover Strait - has arrived in Dover  from the STX Europe shipyard in Rauma, Finland, where it was built.

Big ferry arrives in Dover
10 January 2011 - 10:50

Massive: The new £157million boat, Spirit of Britain, berths into Dover for the first time and dwarfs the old ship, Pride of CalaisMassive: The new £157million boat, Spirit of Britain, berths into Dover for the first time and dwarfs the old ship, Pride of Calais

P&O Ferries' new £151m ship Spirit of Britain - the largest ferry built for service on the Dover Strait - has arrived in Dover after following a route cleared by icebreakers from the STX Europe shipyard in Rauma, Finland, where it was built.

Final preparations will then be made for the ship to enter service on the Dover to Calais route from 21 January.

The ship, 49,000 gross registered tonnes and 213 metres in length, is the first of a pair of new ships coming into service for P&O Ferries on the Dover-Calais route this year, with sister ship Spirit of France due for delivery in September.

The combined cost of £302m for the two ships represents the largest investment ever made by P&O Ferries, which plans to use them to capture growth in the freight market.

It will have space for more than 180 freight vehicles – more than twice the freight capacity of the ships they are replacing – and up to 2,000 passengers.

Huge capacity: The boat can carry 2,000 passengers and 1,000 carsHuge capacity: The boat can carry 2,000 passengers and 1,000 carsSmart: The interior of the huge boat is smartly decked out and the Dover-Calais trip will cost as little as £30 per personSmart: The interior of the huge boat is smartly decked out and the Dover-Calais trip will cost as little as £30 per person

P&O currently has six ferries plying the Dover-Calais route.

A spokesman for the company, Brian Rees, said today: 'In the 1990s there were predictions that every ferry service on the south coast would close - but it never happened.

Ready and waiting: If cars were to line up nose to tail there would be 2.33 miles worth of space for parking in allReady and waiting: If cars were to line up nose to tail there would be 2.33 miles worth of space for parking in all

Big appetite: The canteen of the Spirit of Britain caters to the masses - the ship can hold 180 articulated lorries, which is a lot of hungry truckers

Big appetite: The canteen of the Spirit of Britain caters to the masses - the ship can hold 180 articulated lorries, which is a lot of hungry truckers

'There's a bit of romance about getting on the ferry. It's part and parcel of your holiday. You can change your money and do a bit of shopping.

'The tunnel is ruthlessly efficient, but you need to break your journey somewhere anyway and have a bit to eat if you're driving to most places on the continent.

'And there's a whole new market for us at the moment because of the stress and hassle of flying.

'In contrast, you can load up your car with the kids and their toys, turn up at Dover half an hour before departure, and off you go.'

popular: Millions of passengers continue to the take to the seas at the beginning and end of their continental holidays, while container lorries in their thousands queue up to go aboardpopular: Millions of passengers continue to the take to the seas at the beginning and end of their continental holidays, while container lorries in their thousands queue up to go aboard

Mr Rees added: 'The amount of freight has grown enormously over the last 25 years - most of it going by sea.

'The volume going by ferry now is phenomenal. It used to be a quarter of our business, now it's half, in spite of the recession.'

Mr Rees added that changing family sizes and travel patterns meant the number of passengers catered for on the new ferry remained the same as on the old - 2,000 - but with many more spaces for cars needed.

'When the Pride of Calais was built, cars going on board would have contained families of four or five, he said. 'Now it's much more often families of two or three, along with lots of single people and couples. It's vehicle space we need.'

While the Spirit of Britain, built in Finland, is a record for the Dover-Calais route, there are larger passenger ships on the seas, some notable cruise liners in particular.

But for the Continental route, the size of the ferry was limited not only by the size of the ports, but also by the need for the ship to be able to turn around within 45 minutes, unaided.

The largest ocean-going ships might take half a day to turn around, and need the assistance of tugs.

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